Established in 1885 by George Frederick Smith in London, G . F Smith is a paper merchant originally sourcing only paper from other mills around the world and now also designing and manufacturing its own line. Its collection includes their own Colorplan offering as well as selections from Mohawk, Cranes, Beckett, Gmund, and Strathmore, among others. With a storied past, including the complete destruction of its plant in Hull during bombings in World War II, G . F Smith today is not just a great company for the design industry but for its employees as well, with 36 people currently working there having been at the company for 20 years or more. They recently introduced a new identity designed by London-based Made Thought.
Along with a new typeface, the identity includes two new marks: a mark of custodianship, and a mark that acknowledges G . F Smith’s current role as curators of its remarkable paper Collection, the craft that lies behind their services, and the people at the heart of the company.
The brand name is that of our founder — George Frederick Smith — the man who set us off on this path. Its austere simplicity imparts a sense of honesty, integrity and trust — values we still hold today. The new mark is also an acknowledgment of our role as a custodian. Far from being focused on the past, our own view is that this sense of duty to protect what we have today makes us best placed to be ready for what tomorrow might bring. We’re certainly proud of our beginnings in 1885, and of the path that George Frederick Smith set out upon, and it is why this mark bears his name; every time it appears, it signifies our determination to live up to his standards.
Alongside a proud history, we must be sure that what we are creating today is protected with equal care and a sense of history. So when we say that we are a business from ‘1885 Onwards’ it is far from a need to be tied to the past, but an acknowledgment that as a forward looking company, G . F Smith is proud of its history because our people, our collection, our reputation and the knowledge embodied in all of this have all been formed from our experiences across the generations. Everything we do today acknowledges our great past and pioneering spirit, with a sense of progression and moving forward rather than looking back.
The previous logo had been designed by SEA based on a 1960s version that they digitized and was meant to represent paper passing through a paper-making machine. As recognizable as it had become in the last ten years since being adopted as the official logo it was an awkward piece of lettering at best and an illegible piece of lettering at worst. Were it not for the “Paper from GFSmith” line underneath, it would be impossible to figure out what the logo stood for. The new logo couldn’t be any clearer and it’s a lovely and playful piece of typography using the dot as both the period between the “G” and “F” and the tittle of the “i”. At first the spacing between the “G” and “F” is disconcerting but once you see what it’s doing, it works wonderfully. The “1885 ONWARDS” text adds a bit of extra texture in the smaller point size and I love how it’s a spin on the typical “Est.” or “Established” by looking to the future as opposed to just relying on the past.
These enamel badges were designed to denote and reward the length of service an individual has been with G . F Smith. For up to five years; a silver nickel badge. For 5 to 10 years, a bronze nickel badge. For 10 to 20 years, a white enamel badge. For 20 to 30 years, a black enamel badge, and to reward 30 years of service, a 24k gold badge. Each badge is packaged in a hand-made Colorplan box.
In 2014, 36 people currently working at G . F Smith have been at the company for 20 years or more.
The badges above are probably the single best thing about this identity. It’s the kind of object you would find at a flea market.
Alongside the new brand mark is a symbol to represent our role as curators. Whether finding paper, making custom-sized envelopes, putting together bespoke book dummies or assembling orders from The Paper Smith, much of what G . F Smith does is still by hand. […] Our Curator Mark is as much recognition of this physical reality as it is symbolic of the personal stake each of us takes in the quality and beauty of everything we do.
The addition of the “Curator” mark works nicely as a secondary device to clarify that the company is about paper and the tactility of their product. The drawing of the hand, the angle of the paper, the fold, the splitting of the “1885”… it all works, even when it shouldn’t. It’s another beautiful execution in this identity and I really enjoy how it can work in lock-up with the main logo by obscuring the dot.
The early part of the 20th century saw the dawn of the machine age. Companies were born, industries were formed, and a new family of typefaces emerged to respond to this revolution in the means of production. Less austere than the sans serifs that originated in Germany, but clearly still unrelated to the predominant serif style of the day, these became known as humanist sans, where shapes and outlines were melded from the mechanised and the handcrafted. It is in the same spirit that we have created our own typeface, G . F Smith, a conscious balance of machine and calligraphy and a powerful acknowledgment of our roots.
It’s not Gill Sans! 10 or 15 years ago, Gill Sans would have probably been the obvious and accepted answer for a type choice for a paper company in the UK. Luckily we got a really nice font that has just enough quirk to make it stand out on its own and provide some of that British flavor without resorting to the obvious choice.
Part sample book, part history book, ‘Portrait of a Company’ chronicles the history of G . F Smith through a series of very human accounts drawn from both their archive and interviews with present team members.
A photoshoot was specially commissioned to capture the characters that make up the G . F Smith team today. From this shoot 12 were selected to feature on the case bound cover, representing the face of G . F Smith. The 96pp case bound book utilises 18 papers drawn from the Collection, including Plike, Colorplan, Zen, Phoenixmotion and Strathmore. Throughout the book, tip-in’s demonstrate the array of specialist processes and services available from the company.
Showcasing most of the new identity and aesthetics is a new promotional book, Portrait of a Company, that chronicles the history, present, and future of the G . F Smith. It’s a very handsome publication that clearly defines the new simple and contemporary look for the company. Overall, the new identity is stunning in its confidence and simplicity.
Thanks to Creative Review for the tip.